Bread of Life (John 6:24-35)

Bread is a theological issue.  Jesus is bread.  It isn’t just that the bread becomes Jesus but he became bread for us.  His body is what he offers to nourish our lives.  How does that happen?  People who make bread know something of that mystery.  The mystery of how yeast works to rise dough, or how the hard grains at the end of a dry stalk mix with liquids and other grains and get pulled and pushed and “rested” and risen and baked to feed the world.  Such is bread.  However, the gluten that gives bread its elasticity is harmful to people who have a sensitivity to it.  Congregations in the United Church of Christ have been having conversations about this and are offering a variety of solutions.

One solution is that there will be two kinds of bread–one with gluten and one without–served at Holy Communion.  In 2017 the Vatican prohibited gluten-free wafers and bread as inappropriate for the Eucharist.  The Roman Catholic position is that the element served must resemble as closely as possible the ingredients in the bread and the wine Jesus ate at that last meal with his disciples.  The Protestant position has always been that we remember that meal as a symbolic act.  It’s that position that made it possible for us, a hundred years ago, to change and offer grape juice instead of wine, recognizing that offering wine can hurt alcoholics.

Therefore, just as some churches offer cups with wine and cups with juice they no longer offer bread choices.  Old First Church in Philadelphia went to the congregation and asked them what they should do.  As a result, they now bless only one bread for their celebration of the Lord’s Supper, gluten-free pita bread.  However, gluten-free pita is not something widely available across the country.  Bread choices offered in local markets vary depending on where you live.

There are deep theological issues around the Body of Christ.  How do you understand the representation of the unity of that body as seen in the bread on the Communion table?  Can the Body of Christ be shared in two loaves–or in bread and crackers?  Is it a visible sign of an inward truth to show true diversity on the plate, or should the language of one loaf, one body be visibly enacted.  These are questions for congregations to think about.  They have significance to all our understandings of inclusion and hospitality  One may not be “more right” than another.  But perhaps our choices should not be mindless.  These are good conversations for us to have.  They teach us to think about our faith and help us construct a shared vision of what we are about.  What about you?  How do you feel about the bread of Christ?

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God’s Abundant Presence (John 6:1-21)

Do you ever remember being hungry?  In grade school perhaps?  Di you learn to tell time just so you could see how long it was to lunch?  Were you ever on a long journey by foot or car or bus or plane and you couldn’t eat until you go there?  Di you have to skip breakfast in your family?  Did you ever go for a day or more without eating?  What does being hungry mean to you?  What does it feel like to eat after not eating?  It’s different, isn’t it, to eat a regular meal at the appropriate time versus having to wait to eat until you are hungry?  Which feels like a real feeding?  Which makes you appreciate food?  Which is an experience of abundance?  Many of us take so much for granted.  Eating before you get hungry might mean food becomes a habit taken for granted.  Do we have to be hungry to appreciate food?

That crowd that came out for Jesus was caught unaware in the countryside.  They were on the far side of the sea of Galilee, way out of sight of grocery stores or even a farm stand.  The disciples were certainly worried.  What if that little boy hadn’t brought his lunch?

Being hungry and not knowing when or where your next meal will appear is something that close to a billion people worldwide experience every day.  In the United States as of 2016, 41.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households.  The United States Department of Agriculture has a definition for food insecurity.  It’s when a household does not have regular access to food for all its members.  Of those 41 million Americans, almost 13 million are children.  It is obvious to any of us that one way to show our love for our neighbors and children is to feed them, and many of our churches do.

In Bath, Maine, for example, on Tuesday nights the Neighborhood Cafe, run by the Neighborhood UCC, feeds everyone who comes by.  In Bath, you know you can get a hot meal and good company on Tuesdays.  There are UCC churches that feed people breakfasts from their church kitchens, bring meals to shelters, stock food pantries and more.  We are a feeding people.  Food is a justice issue and a faith issue.

If you want to think deeply about these things you might look at a resource the UCC has prepared for churches.  It’s called “Just Eating.”  We take food for granted.  This is a curriculum that is designed to help us pay attention to food and how we impact the world with our eating choices.  It is a resource that speaks to faith issues and the kitchen.  You can find it on by searching for “Just Eating.”

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Celebrating 145 Years! Change of Date

St. John’s UCC will celebrate its 145th anniversary on Sunday, September 16.  The celebration begins with the 10:30 a.m. worship service and continues with a prepared luncheon in Opperman Hall following the worship service.  Current and former members, as well as previous pastors, are invited to this special occasion.  More information will be forthcoming.  (Note that the date for the celebration has been changed from September 9 to the following Sunday which is September 16.)  Please make the change on your calendars.

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Heifer Mission Project Completed

The 2018 Mission Project sponsored by the Board of Christian Education is Heifer International.  Donations from January through July total $1638.86.

Here is the list of donated animals:  flock of chickens $20.oo; honeybees $30.00; trio of rabbits $60.00; one llama $150.00; one heifer $500.00; sheep $120.00; goat $120.00; pig $120.00; ducks $20.00; tree seedlings $60.00, and a water buffalo $250.

Thanks to everyone for your generous support of this most worthwhile project.  Our mission project is complete for Heifer International, and further word on a new project for fall will be forthcoming.

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Summer Hours Begin Sunday, June 3, 2018

St. John’s UCC begins its summer hours for Sunday School and Worship on Sunday, June 3.  Adult Sunday School classes begin at 9:00 a.m., and Worship begins at 10:00 a.m.  Children’s hour takes place during the worship service hour.  The summer schedule remains in place through Labor Day Sunday, September 2, 2018.

All are welcome to participate in Sunday School and Worship at St. John’s UCC which is located at the corner of College Avenue and Jackson Street in Bluffton, Ohio.

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Food Pantry in Need of Supplies During July

You will notice that the food pantry shelves empty out quickly, especially after the third Saturday distribution takes place.  Out of our abundance, we need to meet the needs of others.  On a Sunday morning, open your cupboard door and pull out a can, box, jar of something and bring it in and place it on the table at the front of the sanctuary.  (Please check expiration dates before bringing in items.)

Currently, during the month of July, the food pantry is in need of canned fruits–especially mandarin oranges.  Spaghetti and other kinds of dry pasta are also needed.  

The month of July finds the shelves almost empty.  Please do your best to bring items to the pantry before the next open house which is Saturday, July 21.

Thank you!

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Centering Words for August 5:  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received….whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.  I Peter 4:10, 11.

Sunday, August 5–Worship is in Oppermann Hall with Barbara Plaugher as leader.  Barbara will speak about, and present, a PowerPoint report on her recent VOSH trip to St. Maarten.  All are welcome to attend.  The worship service is informal with refreshments.

A time of fellowship in Oppermann Hall follows the worship service.

Tuesday, Aug. 7–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 a.m.; TOPS, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, August 8–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 11–School supplies distribution, 9 a.m. to noon

Thought for the Day: The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.  Albert Schweitzer

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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  July 24,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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Facebook Page

You are missing out on a super way to advertise our church if you are not sharing with many of your other Facebook friends St. John’s Facebook page.  There are many interesting articles posted every day.  “Friend” all of your friends and ask them to “Like” the St. John’s page–let’s let people know we are here, alive, and moving forward!

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St Johns Snow

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